NBC News Acquires Stringwire Real-Time Reporting Service

NBC News has purchased Web service Stringwire to help it make use of the mobile phone videos shot by witnesses of an event.

nimble company

NBC News has acquired startup Stringwire, in an effort to be a better, more nimble news machine.

NBC News is scheduled to officially report the deal Aug. 12, but The New York Times scooped it, publishing the story Aug. 11.

Stringwire makes possible better so-called citizen journalism. It enables users to set up a channel and, via Twitter, invite stringers that it knows will be attending an event, as well as people (stringers) who are already at an event and capturing video, to live-stream the event to the channel.

The director of a channel can communicate with various stringers via chat, and direct the footage by cutting between different feeds.

The technology will enable NBC to dramatically increase the speed at which it can report on events happening around the world.

In an interview with The Times, Vivian Schiller, chief digital officer for NBC News, imagined gaining access to events like the protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"You could get 30 people all feeding video, holding up their smartphones, and then we could look at that. We'll be able to publish and broadcast some of them," Schiller told The Times.

The report added the acquisition—of which The Times didn't reveal the financial details—was also, if not primarily, a means of acquiring Phil Groman, who created the technology while at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

According to his blog and resume, Groman also has backgrounds in journalism and public policy and, among other impressive accomplishments before the NYU program, he managed a team in South Africa that designed and developed mobile applications for campaigns and education.

Groman will be based at the NBC Digital Group office in San Francisco, where he'll finish building Stringwire, said The Times.

The Stringwire site is currently collecting emails, promising to let you "be the first to know" when it launches.

Twitter for now is the go-to source for news as it happens. So, of course, it was on Twitter that Groman and Schiller confirmed the deal.

"Thanks @VivianSchiller! Awesome to be a part of the @NBCNews team," Groman Tweeted late in the day on Aug. 11.

Minutes earlier, Schiller Tweeted The Times story and added, "Welcome to the @NBCNews family, @philg1! Building the future of UGC news coverage ... #Stringwire"

To a spate of questions that quickly followed, about who will own the rights to videos, and whether those who shot the video will receive any financial compensation if the video proves particularly popular, Schiller Tweeted, "Right, users need to agree to let their video be available."

When asked by @JohnWilson whether CNN's iReport app, which enables a similar kind of consumer-driven, real-time reporting, is a "case study to exemplify or avoid," Schiller answered, "Neither. Different animal."

The revolution may be televised after all.